Voices of a Waking Dream


A. R. Penck: Early Works

Michael Werner | June 9 – September 2

 

A.R. Penck, Umsturz (Coup d’Etat), 1965. Oil on canvas. 37 1/4 × 78 3/4 inches. Courtesy Michael Werner Gallery, New York; 2016 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

 

How does an image transfigure?
How fast can it appear before consciousness?
Like the letter ‘a’ in apple,
Knowledge is eaten, expelled, dropped, then piled up
Into a monumental muck!

There, on a desolate horizon, a Figure with Outstretched
Arms cries out, what is my anomalous countenance.
Here, a specific blanket is used for
A purpose different than
Keeping human skin and body warm at night.

Standart asserts its own primordial presence,
Between the dance of death and the tree of life,
Why or y? Perhaps between mysticism and eroticism
There lies a double vision of every image
We have encountered in our lives.

Who’s asking the question?
Should a System Painting be disguised in three capital ‘A’s
Held up in different places
In the painting’s own time and space?
At times some figures appear frontally
Like Christ in the tympanum of a Romanesque church
Standing in the center, nothing to hide
From his admirers, or detractors.
Other times, a few pose like the proud Moses holding
The tablet with one hand
While his other hand points up to the sky.

Nearby, a fierce vexation of spirit bespeaks rejection
Of the establishment. It’s a Coup d’Etat of great urgency,
A transitory scene, capturing the bodies in action—
All in profile save for the intended casualty.
What crime have you, I, and they committed?
We’re just doing what we were taught!

A ferocious penchant for making new Weapons;
Like the primeval urge to cut, to crumble, to bundle,
To fold things into things,
To transform things into other things,
They’re indeed unusual still-lives.
Concurrently, Spectrum, Primitive Computer simultaneously
Offer the artist’s version of Jacob wrestling the angel
In the Old Testament. It was the same day,
Same year, 1968.

It was time to swim against the current.
It was time to refuse to sit in an Electric Chair
In three-quarters profile between Heaven and Hell.
Hallelujah, hallelujah!

Contributor

Phong Bui

PHONG BUI is the Publisher and Artistic Director of the Brooklyn Rail.

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